Wednesday, February 25, 2009

LaTeXiT: LaTeX equations without the fuss

It did not take much for me to be sold on the idea that LaTeX typesets equations better than OpenOffice or MS Office. In a recent project I typed up in MS Word for my acoustics class, every time I made phi lowercase in one of my equations, it messed up the entire equation format. Why? It makes no sense. I tried NeoOffice, but finding the necessary symbols in its equation editor is a headache all on its own. Then I saw my friend Brian show how well LaTeX can generate equations. But what if you do not want to bother creating a whole LaTeX document? What if you just want a little equation or two?

Enter LaTexIt. This little tool lets you create LaTeX quality equations that can be saved in various formats (PDF, TIFF, etc.) and dropped into any number of programs, such as Word, Powerpoint, etc. It is great if you just want to make a quick equation without having to do a complete LaTex file creation.

Sorry Windows users, this one is Mac only, though I am sure there is a Windows equivalent.

Here is the program up and running, with an example of an equation I just typed:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Excellent FREE book on subversion

The O'Reilly book on Subversion Control by Ben Collins-Sussman, Brian W. Fitzpatrick, and C. Michael Pilato is available for free online. This is probably old news, but for a new user like me, this is great!

Find the book here (note there are different versions):

Monday, February 16, 2009

MacGyvering a sonar with a car battery

Did the power supply for your Simrad 710 sonar die? No problem, simply hook it up to a car battery. Apparently this is what happened during leg 1 of the cruise I am on. I boarded the R/V Pelican yesterday for a week long research cruise off the Florida panhandle, and the Simrad EM710 sonar's power supply was a simple car battery. We surveyed with this all day today, but are now back in port waiting for a FedEx delivery containing the new, proper, power supply. I must say, that was some impressive MacGyvering!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Once again, Sprint Customer Service proves they suck

I just received my Sprint bill and noticed an erroneous charge. There was a 90 cent fee for trying to check my voicemail on January 27. Their bill code claims that not only was I over my minutes, but that I was also out of network. I looked at the bill and realized I was actually 50 minutes under my limit still at the time of the call and I also had free roaming included in my plan. Of course, I should also mention that I have not traveled in the last month, so that is a moot point anyway. I decided to call them, because even though the charge was only about a buck, I was curious about how they got it wrong. I spent nearly 20 minutes on the phone and the guy helping me kept saying I was over my minutes. I asked him that if that were the case, why my other calls that day and the next were not charged. I also pointed out that the according the bill, I did not actually reach my maximum minutes until a couple days later. He just kept saying nights and weekends are free. Nights start at 7 pm, and Tuesday is not a weekend day. I tried explaining this to him, but he kept repeating that the reason my other calls were fine was due to nights and weekends. Nevermind the fact the other calls were before 7 pm and were mid-week (Tuesday through Thursday). I ended up completely frustrated, and just told him that I did not waste any more time with him explaining the order of the days of the week, not to mention simple math.

Honestly, Sprint is the worst phone company I have ever dealt with. When I first got the phone it came with a 50 dollar service credit (even said so on my receipt). It took three months and three phone calls for them to honor it, and one guy actually accused me of making it up because he could not find the promotional code in his computer. When I told him I still had the receipt and that my next call would be to the better business bureau if he did not fix the issue immediately, he finally transferred me to someone who issued the credit.

I was warned Sprint had the worst customer service and I believe it to be true. Unfortunately, where I live, only Sprint gets service. Everywhere else in NH seems fine, but Newmarket seems to be a black hole. I cannot wait to get rid of my Sprint phone for good!